NHS staff concerned about the shake-up of the cervical screening services used by thousands of women in England every year will be demonstrating outside the annual meeting of NHS England in Manchester tomorrow (Wednesday 4 September).

Cytology, biomedical scientists and cervical screening staff - members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union - will be protesting over mounting waiting lists of women wishing to be screened and the lack of adequate workforce planning to ensure that there is sufficient staff in place to meet demand.

The demo will be at Manchester Central Convention Complex M2 3GX from 15.00 tomorrow.

The protest comes in the wake of the shake-up by NHS England which will see the number of laboratories reporting samples from over three million women annually in England fall from 46 to nine by December this year.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The continued lack of coherent workforce planning and meaningful consultation are fanning worries about job security; retention of skilled staff unable to move from the labs that will be disbanded; and mounting waiting lists for women wishing to be screened. 

“There are serious concerns about the timescales for introducing the new nine lab set-up by December this year, compared with the nearly two years that was allowed for the process in Scotland.

“This is why our members are protesting tomorrow at the annual meeting of NHS England - the organisation that is driving this change. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and his top team should take heed of these legitimate concerns.

“Unite welcomed the news that eight laboratories would remain within the NHS ‘family’ and not be hived off to profit-hungry private healthcare companies. However, the London service will be privatised and will be delivered by a company chaired by Lord Carter, the architect of the reforms in healthcare science.

“Unite believes that Simon Stevens should order the winning providers, in conjunction with NHS England, to consult with the health unions over how to manage this process in a better way for the benefit of women attending cervical screenings and the dedicated staff who are currently in limbo about their futures.”

Unite has outlined a five point action plan to rectify the situation:

  • No compulsory redundancies for affected employees, similar to the pledges made in Scotland
  • Regional deployment pools for affected employees
  • Training bonds and funds made available for employees that wish to retrain so they can remain working in the NHS
  • The end of the procurement and ‘purse before patient’ culture that has pervaded the NHS in England
  • Meaningful consultation by NHS England and NHS Improvement with stakeholders and trade unions.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065
Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.